I’ve been having interesting conversations with various Twitter folk lately about the kind of anime-related criticism they would like to read. One of the main things people said they wanted to see was more writing about the nitty gritties of the animation craft and how it impacts the viewer’s experience (obligatory reference here to the excellent Sakuga Blog, a new animation blog on the scene which all of you should check out pronto). For what it’s worth, I happen to agree with this assessment, but I’m not terribly educated about animation theory, and I don’t think that many anime fans are.
And this is okay! I don’t think you need to know theory to love and appreciate anime. But what if you want to convey to others how much you appreciate the animation craft, beyond just “the animation looked cool!” or “the voice acting was good!”? I think that most of us are aware that the visuals and sound impact the way we perceive the characters and narrative, but we lack the vocabulary to describe what exactly is going on. This can be frustrating when we’re trying to explain why we like (or don’t like) something about a work of art to another person.
Also, for critics who take themselves and their opinions seriously, this sort of thing should matter a lot. Pure formalism may not be a highly-regarded form of media criticism these days, but it does lay the important groundwork for any lens of analysis. So let’s not disregard it out of hand.
Since I’m a beginner too when it comes to animation theory, I figure we can learn about these things together. This post is about the basics of scene composition. I drew most of the information here from the revised edition Art in Motion: Animation Aesthetics by Maureen Furniss, which I think is a really well-written and accessible guide to the main issues in the field. I also encourage anyone with an education in animation theory to do us all a favour and leave a comment and/or some links to further reading. Your knowledge and insight would be very much appreciated!
(Note: While this post draws on general theories about animation, the examples I use are all from Japanese anime. While I’d love to discuss non-Japanese animation too, that’s a topic for other posts.)
The Barakamon anime is ending in a couple of days. This makes me really sad. Barakamon has been one of my favourite shows of the season. It’s one of the few slice of life anime that genuinely puts me at ease, and I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that there is catharsis in the narrative. I can see a lot of my own worries and anxieties reflected in Handa’s character. As he learns to de-stress, I can feel myself letting go as well.
(Perhaps that’s what those moe slice of life shows need more of: not an excuse to escape from reality but to embrace it, to tell the viewer that things will be okay.)
But I digress. I’ve been wanting to write about Barakamon for a while but kept putting it off, partly because I’ve been so busy lately. But it’s also because the reason Barakamon has resonated with me is so deeply entangled with my personality faults that I’d feel uncomfortable discussing it openly. Still, considering that I’d written a post not long ago urging fans to be willing to criticise themselves, it’d be hypocritical of me not to practice what I preach!
I should preface this discussion by saying that if you identify as an artist of any craft (or if you’re a perfectionist) you’d probably relate to Barakamon the same way I did. I highly recommend the series if you haven’t seen it already.
By the way, this is an autobiographical post for the most part, so it’s pretty much spoiler free.
Just a friendly reminder that UR WAIFU IS SHIT.